Teacher Fired for Giving Bible to Student Appeals Denied Claim
A Phillipsburg, N.J., substitute teacher who was fired after handing a Bible to a student last year is appealing against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's decision to drop his claim.
"The IRS, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services … the list of government agencies engaging in religious hostility is growing by the day," the Texas-based Liberty Institute said in a statement.
"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the most recent addition to that list."
Last October, Walter Tutka of Phillipsburg Middle School gave a Bible to one of the students who had asked him where the quote "The first shall be last, but the last shall be first" came from (Matthew 20:16).
This did not sit well with the Phillipsburg School Board, however, who charged the teacher with violating a district rule that prohibits the distribution of religious literature, and then voted to remove him from his position.
Liberty Institute Director of Litigation Hiram Sasser previously said: "It is shocking that the school district is forcing Walt to file a complaint with the EEOC for religious discrimination. All Walt did was respond to a student's intellectual curiosity and the school district suspended Walt and then terminated him."
Tutka decided to appeal to the EEOC but has since found out that it decided to drop his claim. Liberty Institute said that it has sent out a letter to the commission, questioning the process behind denying the claim.
Liberty Institute added that it believes the school district targeted Tutka because he is a member of Gideons International, an evangelical organization based in Nashville that distributes Bibles.
Fox News shared a copy of an email by Phillipsburg Middle School Assistant Principal John Stillo, which apparently shows that the school has an issue with the Bible-distributing organization.
The memo to school staff read: "It has been brought to the administration's attention that Gideon's may be near our campus to distribute literature to our students. Please make sure they DO NOT step foot onto our campus at anytime. There will be added police and security presence at dismissal."
Liberty Institute revealed that Tutka turned to it for advice, and filed a charge of discrimination against the school district with the EEOC – only to receive a reply last month telling him that the commission "was unable to determine if there was discrimination based on the evidence available."
"They predetermined that they were going to reject this claim even though they went through the exercise of asking for the additional information," Sasser said, adding that the denial letter was written before the EEOC even received the additional information it had requested. "The EEOC had no intention of enforcing the protection for religious liberty found in Title VII that Congress requires them to enforce."
Liberty Institute promised that it will continue standing up for First Amendment rights, noting that "the hostility toward religion has reached all levels of the federal government."